Geoscience Society fears loss of fossils

A pit at Foulden Maar, near Middlemarch. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A pit at Foulden Maar, near Middlemarch. Photo: Gregor Richardson

It is inevitable thousands of new species of fossil will be lost forever if a controversial mining plan near Middlemarch goes ahead at the scale proposed, a group representing geosciences in New Zealand says.

The Geoscience Society of New Zealand has revised its submission to the Overseas Investment Office on Plaman Resources' application to buy a 432ha farm surrounding its Foulden Maar diatomite mine.

In its revised submission, the society has recommended the site be recognised as an outstanding natural feature as soon as possible.

The site was well suited to becoming a Unesco geopark.

Of great concern to the society was the loss of the climate record stored in the deepest and thickest part of the maar, which the proposed mining plan would destroy at a very early stage.

A pledge from the company to preserve at least 5ha of the site for scientific research was likely to happen near the edge of the maar, which was likely to have a much shorter climate record with poorer fossil preservation.

Concerns were also raised about the impact the mine and the associated pumping would have on the water table, possibly drying out the soil and causing irreparable damage to the sites fossils and layering.

A full and independent hydrological and geological analysis was needed to determine how any mining could happen without destroying the scientific value of the site, the submission said.

It was inevitable mining at the site at the scale proposed would destroy ten of thousands of fossils, representing thousands of new species.

Peer reviewed studies investigating the claims made by Plaman about the quality of the diatomite in the maar also needed to be examined before they were seriously considered as evidence supporting the application.

Society president Jennifer Eccles said the organisation usually took a pragmatic approach of working with industry to protect scientific sites and considered complete opposition only after careful consideration.

In the case of Foulden Maar the society had always taken a hardline stance on the need to protect a significant portion of the site for scientific research, Dr Eccles said.

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